Thursday, February 7, 2008

False Witness: Director Of National Intelligence Lies To Senate Committee

In his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of February 5th, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell [photo] told some very interesting lies. Four of them, all in the same short passage, grabbed me especially hard -- by the throat.

Two of those lies are easy to spot, for anyone with a reasonable understanding of contemporary world history. But spotting the others might require the eye of a specialist. Fortunately, such a specialist is available.

The lies from McConnell on which I want to focus in this post all came in the short section of his testimony called "THE “HOMEGROWN” THREAT". Here's the text of that section:
Over the next year, attacks by "homegrown" extremists inspired by militant Islamic ideology but without operational direction from al-Qa'ida will remain a threat to the United States or against US interests overseas. The spread of radical Salafi Internet sites that provide religious justification for attacks, increasingly aggressive and violent anti-Western rhetoric and actions by local groups, and the growing number of radical, self-generating cells in Western countries that identify with violent Salafi objectives, all suggest growth of a radical and violent segment among the West's Muslim populations. Our European allies regularly tell us that they are uncovering new extremist networks in their countries.

While the threat from such homegrown extremists is greater in Europe, the US is not immune. The threat here is likely to be fueled in part by propaganda and mischaracterizations of US foreign policy as harmful to Muslims, rather than by any formal assistance from al-Qa'ida or other recognized groups. The al-Qa'ida-propagated narrative of an "us versus them" struggle serves both as a platform and a potential catalyst for radicalization of Muslims alienated from the mainstream US population.

A small, but growing portion of al-Qa'ida propaganda, is in English and is distributed to an American audience—either in translated form or directly by English-speaking al-Qa'ida members like Adam Gadahn, the American member of al-Qa'ida who, in early-January, publicly urged Muslims to use violence to protest the President's Middle East trip. Bin Ladin's September 2007 "message to the American people" and Zawahiri's May 2007 interview include specific US cultural and historical references almost certainly meant to strike a chord with disaffected US listeners.

Disrupted plotting over the past 14 months in New Jersey and Illinois highlights the diverse threat posed by Homeland based radical Muslims inspired by extremist ideology. A group of European and Arab Muslim immigrants arrested last May for planning to attack Fort Dix, New Jersey, used a group member's familiarity with the US Army base to determine their target. In Illinois, the FBI arrested US Muslim convert Derrick Shareef in December 2006 as he attempted to obtain weapons for a self-planned, self-executed terrorist attack against a shopping mall in Rockford.

To date, cells detected in the United States have lacked the level of sophistication, experience, and access to resources of terrorist cells overseas. Their efforts, when disrupted, largely have been in the nascent phase, and authorities often were able to take advantage of poor operational tradecraft. However, the growing use of the internet to identify and connect with networks throughout the world offers opportunities to build relationships and gain expertise that previously were available only in overseas training camps. It is likely that such independent groups will use information on destructive tactics available on the Internet to boost their own capabilities.
Some of the above might possibly be true. But certainly not all of it. I've added a bit of emphasis to highlight the parts that grabbed me.

First of all, McConnell's phrase, "mischaracterizations of US foreign policy as harmful to Muslims", is worthy of a nomination, if not immediate enshrinement, in the Bullshit Hall of Fame.

How many Muslims have we killed in Iraq? How many Muslims have we killed in Afghanistan? How many Muslims have we made homeless, and stateless, throughout the Middle East, since the fall of 2001? How many innocent Muslims have been wrongly incarcerated -- and in some cases tortured -- by Americans in the past seven years? How many Muslim countries are we currently attacking (either openly or clandestinely or by proxy) or threatening (ditto)?

The answers: at least a million, tens of thousands, many millions, tens of thousands, and at least five.

Is this good for Muslims? In what way is this good for Muslims?

As you may have noticed, McConnell takes Bush's famous ultimatum "Either you're with us or you're with the terrorists" and renders it completely backwards, as a narrative propagated by al Qaeda, and a potential catalyst for radicalization of Muslims.

He must do this reality reversal, of course, otherwise Bush would be shown as guilty of providing a potential catalyst for the violent radicalization of Muslims, and others.

But those are the easy lies to spot.

More difficult to debunk, for most observers, would be McConnell's reference to the video of Osama bin Laden released in September of 2007. Whether we find Osama's videos too scary or too boring, very few of us ever sit down and watch. And that's too bad, because we miss out on important insights, such as the undeniable fact that the video to which McConnell refers contains three and a half minutes of live video and nearly twenty minutes of a still photograph with a voice-over. Scary stuff! The world's most frightening terrorists -- against whom we have to spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year to defend ourselves -- can't make a video in which their fearless leader speaks for a full 20 minutes? We should all be quaking in our boots -- especially Mike McConnell, the treasonous liar who has helped put us on such a slippery slope.

And worst of all, from McConnell's point of view: all mentions of current events in this video occur when ... are you ahead of me here? ... all mentions of current events occur during the "still-photo with voice-over" sections. What an astonishing coincidence!!

Imagine Osama bin Laden being able to speak for minutes at a time without moving his lips, without turning a page of his notes, without twitching a finger or an eyebrow! What an amazing terrorist mastermind!!

Much more difficult to spot, but even more damning -- if possible -- is this complex and patently false assertion from McConnell:
In Illinois, the FBI arrested US Muslim convert Derrick Shareef in December 2006 as he attempted to obtain weapons for a self-planned, self-executed terrorist attack.
Regular visitors to this page have been reading about Derrick Shareef since the day his arrest was announced. At the risk of trying their patience, let's recap:

Derrick Shareef [sketch] was arrested in a parking lot in Rockford Illinois, after trading a pair of used stereo speakers for a box containing four hand grenades, a handgun and some ammunition. According to federal prosecutors (from Chicago, including Patrick Fitzgerald), Shareef was planning to detonate the grenades in garbage cans in Rockford's CherryVale Mall in just a few more weeks -- on the Friday before Christmas.

Fitzgerald and the others hastened to assure the public that we were never in any danger. But they didn't elaborate, other than to say the suspect had been under surveillance for some time.

Other reports made it abundantly clear that there was never any danger at all. The grenades and the ammunition were non-functional, but Shareef didn't know that. The "arms dealer" with whom he made the trade was an FBI agent, but Shareef didn't know that either. Other FBI agents, waiting at the scene, arrested Shareef right after he placed the box of fake weapons into the trunk of a car. The car belonged to an FBI informant, which the affidavit filed against Shareef called a Confidential Source (CS).

The affidavit, written by FBI agent Jared Ruddy, constitutes the only public evidence ever presented against Derrick Shareef, who waived his bail hearing, waived his evidentiary hearing, then pleaded not guilty and sat in prison for almost a year ... and then -- suddenly -- he changed his plea to guilty, just a few days before his trial was scheduled to begin.

Shareef pleaded guilty to a charge of attempting to obtain and/or use a weapon of mass destruction. The weapon of mass destruction in question was a hand grenade. (Yes! According to the Federal law invoked in this case, grenades are explicitly classified as "weapons of mass destruction".) Shareef remains in prison pending sentencing, and may face as much as 30 years behind bars.

Later that day -- the very same day on which Shareef changed his plea -- William "Jameel" Chrisman [photo] testified in New Haven, Connecticut, in a hearing pertaining to another case. In his testimony, which continued through the following day, Chrisman stated that he had moved from Buffalo, NY, to Rockford IL, at the behest of the FBI, who had "tasked" him to meet Derrick Shareef.

The task proved surprisingly easy for Chrisman, who simply walked into the video store where Shareef was working and struck up a conversation with his target. The timing of the meeting was indeed very fortunate for Chrisman, since Shareef had no place to live at the time and was about to move in with the manager of the store. But Chrisman gave him another option.

Within eight hours Shareef was moving in with Chrisman, his three wives and their nine children. It's a bizarre family arrangement, to be sure, but it's one of the least bizarre details of this story.

William Chrisman's testimony filled in some of the missing pieces from Jared Ruddy's affidavit. The affidavit was based on conversations Chrisman recorded while he was with Shareef but -- for obvious reasons -- didn't mention how or why Chrisman and Shareef were together.

On the other hand, the affidavit did include enough information to show unequivocally that Shareef had been entrapped by a very slick operator. And by combining the details included in the affidavit with those revealed when Chrisman testified in New Haven, we can see quite clearly that:

Chrisman was the one who suggested bombing CherryVale Mall. Chrisman was the one who suggested using grenades for the attack on the mall. Chrisman was the one who suggested the timing of the attack -- and gave the reason: to disrupt the height of the Christmas shopping season. Chrisman urged Shareef to join him in making martyrdom videos; in his testimony, Chrisman boasted that he had talked Shareef into making the video just six weeks after Shareef had moved in with him.

Chrisman and Shareef cased the CherryVale Mall twice, using Chrisman's car to get there. They had to use Chrisman's car because Shareef didn't have one. Shareef didn't have any weapons, he didn't know anybody who could help him get weapons, and he didn't seem to know anything about weapons either. Chrisman set up the "deal" with the bogus "arms dealer". And Chrisman also arranged the "trade" (four grenades for a pair of speakers), after the "purchase" which Chrisman originally tried to set up (two grenades for $100) had proved unworkable. The sale was unworkable because Shareef couldn't get his hands on any cash, and the affidavit hints that he might even have stolen the speakers.

And finally, after setting all this up, Chrisman himself drove Shareef to parking lot in which "the arms deal" was to take place, and in which Shareef was arrested.

All these details are in the public record. Anyone can read the affidavit filed against Shareef and the news articles about Chrisman's testimony in New Haven in November. Not long ago, your cold correspondent compiled and published all the pertinent details in a single post. Just last week, Rolling Stone published an article called "The Fear Factory", which also spotlights this case -- a bit dimly, perhaps, but nonetheless...

It may be argued that Derrick Shareef should have had enough good sense to say "No" to Jameel Chrisman and his crazy schemes. I agree entirely, although I must point out that it would have been extremely difficult for him to do this, even if he had enough sense to suspect that he was being set up. Shareef might only have been trash-talking, but Chrisman was certainly pushing him, testing his manhood, and his faith -- and all the while, the only reason why Derrick Shareef had a place to live was because of the "generosity" of Jameel Chrisman and the FBI sponsors behind him. Should Shareef have been more circumspect? Surely. Could he have been less careful? Hardly. Is his trash talk worthy of decades behind bars? Maybe not. Is this the main issue here? No. Not at all.

It may be argued that behind all the trash-talk, Derrick Shareef was actually a mean dude in a foul mood who would have done America grievous harm if he ever figured out how to do it. But there's no way short of abject reality-denial that one can argue, like the folks at STRATFOR argued last week, that Derrick Shareef was a "lone wolf". And similarly, there's no way short of absolute reality-reversal that one can say, like Michael McConnell told the Senate Select Committee, that Derrick Shareef was attempting "to obtain weapons for a self-planned, self-executed terrorist attack".

Was the "CherryVale Mall attack" really "self-planned"? Hardly! The only aspect of the plan which can be fairly attributed to Shareef was the bit about how the grenades would be detonated in garbage cans, so that shoppers would be shocked and awed by all the flying garbage.

And was it "self-executed"? Not a bit! It was never executed at all. And a close reading of the affidavit shows that Derrick Shareef was no suicide bomber. He was mostly worried about how he was going to get away.

But even if McConnell had said "self-to-be-executed", or otherwise suggested that Shareef was doing all his maneuvering in secret, without any accomplices, he would still have had no support in the available evidence. Shareef wouldn't have been maneuvering at all without Chrisman and his car.

Michael McConnell must know better. Or if not, then he should! If I know better, why should he know less? He's the Director of National Intelligence, for crying out loud, and I'm a citizen journalist. Mike McConnell can read my email if he wants to, so why should I know more than he does about anything?

Will McConnell's lies remain unchallenged? Or will the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence ask me to testify as well? I'm sure we all know the answer to that one.

Aside from the question of whether Derrick Shareef got decent legal representation, aside from the obvious impropriety of fomenting bogus terror plots which can then be foiled for political publicity purposes, aside from a Director of National Intelligence categorically lying about something so easily documented, what does it matter?

Does it matter, in the long run, whether Derrick Shareef spends the rest of his life in prison? Not especially.

What matters is the damage that's about to be done to our future, by our own government, using a false pretext which the government itself has set up, and in which Michael McConnell's lies play a big part.

Congress is about to pass the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, which will establish a raft of new powers for the federal government to use in a "search" for the "roots" of "violent radicalization" in "homegrown terrorists".

It will enable national data-mining on an unimagined scale. It will strip privacy rights wherever they interfere with the search for the elusive answer ... which is not very elusive at all, but quite obvious, really.

We already know what leads these "homegrown terrorists" down the path of "violent radicalization": agents-provocateur working for the FBI and/or local law enforcement (like the NYPD).

So why do they need to study it?

Might there be some other reason for studying the "Islamic propaganda" which "mischaracterizes American foreign policy as harmful to Muslims"?

Might there be a plan in the works under which honest patriotic Americans will find it dangerous to point out the many ways in which American foreign policy is extremely harmful to Muslims, since to do so might cause one to be accused of supporting or enabling or providing the ideological background for the next generation of terrorists?

The potential ramifications are mind-boggling. And none of them are good for you!